Meanwhile, do you have psychic talent? Sometimes it’s just a matter of definition. You might be doing something routinely that you never thought of as ESP-related before. Looking at the following list of psychic abilities, common and uncommon, you might be surprised to find something that resonates with your own experience.
Déjà vu – been there, done that, doing it again!
Baseball legend Yogi Berra said it best: "This is like déjà vu all over again." Déjà vu (French for already seen) is the feeling that you’ve experienced something before and is the most common of the ESP repertoire. In fact, most people don’t even think of it as a psychic ability. Over 60 percent of those quizzed in reputable polls not only believe in the phenomenon but feel they have experienced it.
Retrocognition - knowledge of the past
Sometimes called postcognition, this is knowledge after the fact. Most people experience this as a sudden flash or a vision of an event. You’d suddenly “see” what actually happened, perhaps even through someone else’s eyes. You’d be acutely aware of details, things you couldn’t know by ordinary means. You might feel or sense the emotions or vibes of the past. Sometimes retrocognition includes past life regression, although it’s possible you might be picking up on a powerful impression (traumatic and emotional events like battles, murders, etc. can leave their psychic stamp behind) rather than one of your own previous lives.
Precognition - knowledge of the future
Ever think of a song you haven’t heard in years and years and soon afterwards you hear it being played? Foretelling the future is the talent we associate most with the term “psychic”. It conjures up images of crystal balls and tarot cards, palm reading and rune casting. For most of us, though, it’s the premonition that tells us something is about to happen, or the dream that has us wondering if we should change our plans. At least a third of the population believes that some dreams can convey information about the future. Intuition, premonitions and “gut feelings” fall under this category, and precognition often goes hand in hand with clairsentience (see section on this).
This is the ability to communicate mind to mind without the use of verbal speech. (The Changelings in my new paranormal romance series do this when they’re in wolfen form) Sometimes the information is sent by mental speech, sometimes by images. Medium John Edward says he gets images of pink roses when a spirit is trying to convey love. There are many documented cases of a telepathic connection between twins that science still doesn’t understand. By the way, there’s a movie called Telepathy coming out next year -- Russian scientists experiment with twins to see if telepathy can be used in earth-space communication.
Psychometry is based on the principle that all objects absorb energy from their surroundings. Some people are said to be able to pick up an item of clothing or a piece of jewelry and be able to tell something about its owner. Or they may be able to touch a piece of furniture and tell its history, or simply pick up uncomfortable vibes from it. This may manifest as a phobia. Actor Billy Bob Thornton (whose mother is a psychic) is quite open about his fear of antique furniture and says it “creeps him out”. When in Europe he shuns historical hotels and seeks out the most modern accommodations possible.
Clairsensing – beyond the sixth sense
There isn’t just a sixth sense, there’s a seventh, eighth, ninth, etc., all under the umbrella of clairsensing or “the clairs”. The words are taken from the French. Clair can mean light, bright or clear – think of the word “clarity”. Clairvoyant then means clear-sighted, clairaudience means clear-hearing and clairsentience means clear-knowing. The following is a list of the more common clairsenses:
CLAIRVOYANCE – This one is often confused with the ability to predict the future (precognition), but it actually refers more to visions or something called remote viewing. This psychic ability might allow a person to describe a place they have never been, or a hidden object, or even an activity which is a considerable distance away. Remote viewing has even been used to try to locate archeological sites, and governments around the world (including the US) have invested in programs to study the potential of remote viewing for gathering intelligence. The 2009 George Clooney movie, The Men Who Stare at Goats, was a comedic treatment of the topic - with more truth than you might think.
CLAIRSENTIENCE – Sometimes called claircognizance, this is clear knowing. Ever hear the phone ring and you know who it is before you answer it? Clairsentience is knowledge that comes to you without an apparent source. You might have a strong gut feeling or a hunch that you should keep your distance from someone you just met, even though they’ve given you no reason not to trust them. Most people chalk experiences like this up to intuition. Oddly, intuition is seldom thought of as a psychic gift!
CLAIRAUDIENCE – This is hearing sounds or voices that others can’t. They may be physically heard with the ears or perceived “inside one’s head” like telepathy or even channeling. Some mediums say this is how they get their information from the spirits they connect with. Probably a little scarier than other psychic gifts because it’s easily mistaken for schizophrenia!
CLAIRALIENCE – Sometimes called clairaroma, this is the ability to perceive a smell where one doesn’t exist. Sometimes visiting spirits are accompanied by a distinctive scent, and I’d have to put my hand up on this one. One winter day as I was putting laundry away, the room was suddenly thick with the smell of lilacs. At the same time, I heard my Welsh grandmother’s distinctive chuckle in my mind. She’d passed away some years before, but her signature scent had been lilac – I well remember the bottles of lilac perfume, jars of lilac body powder and other lilac-smelling cosmetics on her dresser. So clairaroma and clairaudience combined to give me a brief connection to a family member on the other side.
Sometimes this gift is said to offer warnings, such as if you smell gas in the house when no one else does (although you might just have a keener nose than your friends and family and you really DO smell gas!) And it should be mentioned that terrible odors have often been reported as part of a haunting, or in a place where something dreadful has happened and the energy is particularly dark.
CLAIRGUSTANCE – Sometimes called clairgustus, this is the odd ability to taste something without having put anything into your mouth. It’s generally associated with a spirit, perhaps the favorite food of that person or a food they prepared a certain way. Or it might be a substance associated with the spirit in some way – reports have listed the taste of alcohol, medication, metal, tobacco or sometimes even blood.
How do you find and strengthen your psychic abilities?
Many times it’s a matter of increasing your awareness of what’s already going on. We’re in such a hurry most of the time that we could be having all sorts of psychic experiences and not know it. Slowing down can make a huge difference. Pay attention. Focus. Pause a few seconds before you do things like open the mail, answer the door or pick up the phone. Here’s a fun exercise - Take a moment before you turn the page in a magazine. Is there already an impression or a picture in your head? Maybe it’s red lipstick or Brad Pitt, maybe a new car or a hamburger. Look and see if you were right. (This is a great game to play with friends too.)
Be sure to write down your experiences, no matter how small. Keeping a journal will help to build your awareness. It’s like trying to remember your dreams – keeping a pad and pencil by your bed and making a habit of writing things down when you awaken actually trains your brain to recall things.
Just for fun or to seriously test how psychic you are, you might want to try out some online ESP quizzes (look for reputable ones, and pages that your browser says are safe). This one posted by Stephen Wagner on About.com is a good one http://paranormal.about.com/library/weekly/aa050800a.htm
YOUR TURN – Do you feel that psychic ability exists? Have you had an experience with déjà vu, precognition, or clairsensing of some kind? If you could have one of these abilities, which would you choose?
The séance became extremely popular during the Victorian era on both sides of the Atlantic, with the emergence of the Spiritualist movement* in America. Some séances were frivolous, of course, and entered into purely for entertainment. Some were fraudulent, with fake mediums determined to capitalize on the trend (and often people’s grief) by implementing what we would now call special effects. But there were many séance holders who were sincere in their purpose, seeking some sort of harmony between religion and rationality.
Séances in the White House?
Many notable individuals made use of séances. It’s well documented that Mary Todd Lincoln held several at the White House, which were attended by her husband Abraham Lincoln, as well as high-ranking members of Washington society. Calvin Coolidge and his wife were rumored to have also held seances, although they denied it when the press got hold of it.
Author Charles Dickens, poet W.B. Yeats and physicist Sir Oliver Lodge attended séances regularly as members of The Ghost Club – a British organization devoted to paranormal investigation. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attended his first séance in 1887, the same year his first Sherlock Holmes novel was published. He viewed spiritualism as a natural extension of rapidly-emerging science.
Séances (also called “sittings”) and “demonstrations of mediumship” still form a regular part of church services for many practicing Spiritualists today. They believe that existence and personal identity continues after the change called death. To them, contact with those who have moved on to the next life is not only possible, but desirable in order to gain knowledge. Actor Dan Ackroyd’s great grandfather was a Spiritualist, who practiced regular communications with ghosts in his home. (Read about Dan’s unusual family life in History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters )
Origins of the séance
The term Séance comes to the English language from an Old French word meaning “a sitting” or “session”, as in a meeting of a legislative body. In the mid-1800s, séance began to be used to describe a gathering where people sought messages and advice from the unseen world. The concept of contacting the dead, however, is far, far older than the words we use to describe it now.
In ancient Greece and Italy, the practice of necromancy – summoning the dead and asking them questions about the future – was called nekyia. There were a number of Greek and Roman temples devoted to this rite, although the ceremony could be performed in other places such as gravesites. The ancient Persians, Arabians, Chaldeans, Etruscans and Babylonians also contacted the dead for information.
Facilitators for the dead
Nearly all séances depend on someone with psychic ability or sensitivity to act as a medium, “facilitating” the proceedings. Spirits may make use of a wide variety of communication methods; as the character, Dean Winchester, aptly said in Supernatural, “…communicating across the vale, it ain't easy.” The medium may gain impressions of the spirit in question, see the spirit in their mind or with their eyes, hear the spirit’s words or channel the spirit’s words through the psychic’s own mouth, or channel their ideas through automatic writing. The spirit may be skilled enough to able to make itself audible or even visible to more than one person in the room or it may have to utilize rapping and other physical manifestation to communicate at all.
By the way, in recent years a new type of séance has emerged called “stage mediumship”. One of the best examples of this is psychic John Edward, who receives impressions and messages from ghosts associated with audience members. Rather than focus on a specific spirit, he works with whichever spirit would like to communicate at the time.
When to hold a séance
There are two times a year when the veil between worlds is said to be at its thinnest. One is Beltane, about the 1st day of May, and the other is Samhain, which is October 31 or November 1. Communicating with spirits is said to be easier at these times.
It has been claimed by some that connecting with the ghosts of the recently deceased is easier than trying to talk to those who’ve been away from the mortal plane a long time. This is because the spirits of the newly dead are more likely to still be around. The more time that passes, the more likely that the spirit has moved on.
Most mediums prefer to hold séances after dark. Some séances are held on dates that are significant to a particular spirit – a birthday, an anniversary of an event, etc.
Tools for séances
Some mediums do not require tools; others are more comfortable using them. Candles, tarot cards, even crystals and gazing balls may be helpful to the medium, but there are no hard rules about them. So it won’t matter much if you have seven candles or three, a blue tablecloth for your table or no table at all. It’s whatever works best for you and creates an atmosphere where you are receptive and relaxed.
The best tool of all may be your attitude. Not enough is said about respect when dealing with the paranormal. On a number of TV shows, investigators are often shown challenging spirits, even yelling at them to provoke them into manifesting themselves. The spirits you’re seeking are people, and it’s tough to gain anyone’s cooperation on either side of the veil with a belligerent attitude. Any spirit that does respond to this kind of treatment may not be pleasant.
Why perform a séance?
One of the cardinal rules of séances is that there should be a purpose. The group needs to be focused on a goal, either a specific question and/or a specific person. Desiring comfort or closure after a loved one has passed is a common goal. Seeking to know what happened to an individual who has disappeared or lost their life is also common. Often times the living seek counsel and advice for their own lives. By the way, the deceased person is not necessarily privy to the secrets of the universe just because they’re dead. Have realistic expectations.
Calling up spirits “just for the fun of it” is not recommended. This is a good way to get into trouble. Anyone who thinks spirit entities can’t hurt you should read these articles: http://www.examiner.com/x-1001-Ghost-Hunting-Examiner~y2009m2d2-Dangers-of-the-paranormal-a-cautionary-tale-for-ghost-hunters and http://robjo.wordpress.com/2006/12/04/tips-and-tricks-for-your-next-seance/
If you’re genuinely interested in making contact, it’s always a better idea to utilize an experienced and reputable medium than to have your college roommate “wing it” after a few beers. If you want to try mediumship yourself, study up on it until you find a method that feels comfortable to you, know how to protect yourself and your home, and be sure to select sincere people to participate with you. Here’s a place to start – http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/wiccanandpaganrituals/ht/Hold_Seance.htm
Facebook and Twitter links are on my website.
Your turn – Have you ever attended a séance? If you could contact someone from the other side, who would it be?